‘Stay away from that fence!’

Goldie and I love to walk by the Kyle Elementary School about mid-morning when the children are out playing at recess. When we walk by, Goldie, my three-year-old Catahoula mix dog goes crazy, wanting to get close to the children, and the children are generally very excited to see Goldie as well. So she drags me up to the fence and the children run toward the same fence to greet her. I am very aware of not wanting to cause any more anxiety for the teachers who guard their precious charges, and so do not want to give them anything else to worry about. So I try to limit the contact between Goldie and the children. 

One time I had stayed a little too long at the fence, and I heard from across the field, “Stay away from the fence!” I took it as a note of warning to the children and a note of caution for me, and I left as soon as was humanly possible. 

We place so much on our teachers these days: they are to be surrogate parents, counselors, social workers, problem solvers and now we ask them to shield our children from bullets. Several brave teachers died that day in Florida, and I praise their bravery and mourn their loss. I read where that state, in the wake of the latest deadly school shooting, has finally stepped up and changed some of their gun laws including raising the age of ownership from 18 to 21. Not a lot, but at least it’s something.

President Trump wants to build a walled fence on the Mexican border. His goal is to keep out all the “bad people” that live in Mexico. He and those who agree with him are acting out of a stance of fear. I thank God that those who built the Statue of Liberty did not think in terms of fear, but of what’s possible. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teaming shore.” It is that attitude that made this country great. They did not think in terms of what others might do to them, they opened their arms to all because they were also received with warmth. 

Our goal as a country is for the “huddled masses” to breathe the air of freedom, not hounded for their green cards, or by a crazed maniac’s bullets. It is our right as citizens of this great country to expect our leaders to want that for us as well. And it’s about time that the cowards in Congress both stand up to the NRA and the bully in the White House and say, “Enough!” loudly enough that they and he and all of us will hear and finally be allowed the “breathe free.”

Mark Stoub is a retired Presbyterian minister and author of two novels: “Blood Under the Altar,” and “The Fifth Trumpet: Fire in the Blood.”


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